It was my first Christmas with my Coast Guard husband after his transfer to Honolulu before our son was born. We chose that day to visit Punchbowl, the National Military Cemetery of The Pacific. Established in a crater that was formed some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago, the governor of Hawaii offered the Punchbowl for a national cemetery in 1943. In February 1948, Congress approved funding and construction began. It was officially dedicated on September 2, 1949, the 4th anniversary of V-J Day.
As we stood on the viewing platform, looking down at the rows of crosses, I could hardly believe this sunny day with a warm breeze disturbing my hair was December 25th. I found the experience to be a very moving as I realized how many gave their lives so I could stand in that spot.
An equally moving experience happened twenty-odd years later when my family spent a day at the Normandy coastline at Omaha Beach American Cemetery & Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. The first American cemetery on European soil, France granted the United States a special, perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery, free of any charge or any tax. Overlooking Omaha Beach, the memorial consists of a semicircular colonnade with a loggia at each end containing maps and narratives of the military operations.
I cannot describe my stirred emotions as I walked the sands that had absorbed the blood of so many of America's finest.
Perhaps I'm just sensing that we, the people, need to look back to see how we've drifted from that era of sacrifice for others and unity of country.